Miami Constructing collapses as an “early warning” of local weather change – with that?

Guest contribution by Eric Worrall

Ran Boydell, visiting professor on sustainable development, said the terrible collapse of the Surfside condo building could be a warning if we don’t cut carbon emissions.

Most buildings were designed for a previous climate – here’s what will happen as global warming accelerates

July 3, 2021 1:29 p.m. AEST
Ran Boydell
Visiting Lecturer in Sustainable Development, Heriot-Watt University

Climate change will affect every aspect of our lives – including the buildings we live and work in. For example, most people in the United States spend about 90% of their time indoors. Climate change is fundamentally changing the environmental conditions under which these buildings are supposed to function.

Architects and engineers design buildings and other structures such as bridges to function within the parameters of the local climate. They are built using materials and to construction standards that can withstand the expected temperature ranges, rainfall, snow and wind, and all geological problems such as earthquakes, subsidence and water levels.

If any of these parameters are exceeded, there is a possibility that some aspect of the building will fail. Some roof tiles can be torn off in strong winds. If the groundwater level rises after days of heavy rain, the basement can be flooded. This is normal, and these problems cannot be fully conceptualized. After the event has ended, the damage can be repaired and the risk of recurrence can be reduced by taking additional measures.

The tragic recent collapse of an apartment building in Miami, USA, could be an early warning that the process is picking up speed. While the exact cause of the collapse is still under investigation, some suggest that it could be linked to climate change.

Whether the connection with climate change holds true or not, it is still a wake-up call to the fragility of our buildings. It can also be seen as a clear demonstration of a critical point: wealth does not protect against the effects of climate change. Rich nations have the financial power to adapt faster and mitigate these effects, but they cannot stop them at the border. Climate change is indiscriminate. Buildings are susceptible to these effects no matter where in the world they are, and if anything, there are more things about modern buildings in developed countries that can go wrong than simpler traditional structures.

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I tried to find Ran Boydell’s employee listing on the Heriot-Watt University website, but his name didn’t come up in my search.

As for Ran’s claim that the building collapse was caused by climate change. We’re used to climate scientists trying to opportunistically attach themselves to any of the recent crises in order to fuel their scare tactics. But trying to take advantage of the collapse of the Miami building before the investigation is complete while people are still searching for bodies marks a new low in my opinion for that behavior.

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